from The Eternal Loneliness of Clocks [novel; literary fiction]

Noah Ranson was alone on New Year’s Eve and okay with that, he half-convinced himself, as he watched the flames of the fire roiling in the fireplace turn goldfish orange, scarlet red, and light blue. There was something to be learned from watching the flames, he was sure, but didn’t know exactly what. It was definitely a Zen experience like raking the leaves, driving on a long trip down a straight highway lined with leafless trees in winter, cleaning and dusting his small house.

He had used the dead branches from the dying maple tree as kindling and some drafts of poems that weren’t going anywhere. It felt good to surrender the failed attempts at creating musical sentences with not enough or not perfectly amalgamated concrete detail, imagery, cadence, abstraction; linguistic and philosophical meaning. And the drafts, he knew, weren’t really failures per se, but part of his writing process of peeling and creating layers. Everything was so complex to him, and he longed for a simplification down to essential truths.

He would write more in 2017, he promised himself; the first on his list of New Year resolutions. And he also resolved not to be alone so much. His solitude was essential for writing and his mental health; he needed time to think and simply be, but at 52 years of age, he had come to the realization that he did, in fact, need to spend more of his time  around other humans.

But tonight, he was alone, as usual, with the exception of his dog, Wallace, who was half asleep in the glow from the fire, warm and happy that Noah was home and in close proximity. Going out on New Year’s Eve was overrated, and he wasn’t a fan of driving on a night when everyone was drinking and when the ball dropped in Time Square, one felt obligated to kiss the strangers within physical reach. Not that anyone had invited him to a party or to meet at a bar. His few friends were busy with their children and/or spouses.

The years he was married, he and Rebecca would make baked-stuffed lobster on New Year’s Eve and play Scrabble until midnight before going to sleep in the king-sized bed he loved sharing with her.  He usually won their Scrabble games and that frustrated her. She liked to be in control, the one calling the shots, and he was happy for eight years to let her make decisions that affected them both. He hated confrontation and drama but did pick his battles and stick up for himself a few times. In fact, doing so is what precipitated the collapse of their marriage.

He had had enough of her preaching at him and telling him what to do, how to behave. “I’m my own person,” he told her, “and please back away from me.” She was standing in front of him, blocking his exit from the kitchen; her face an inch away from his.

“No problem!” Rebecca yelled, as she walked out through the front door they never used and only returned to their home once to collect her things and all their furniture with a moving van, his neighbors told him, while he was teaching Camus’ The Stranger. When he came home to the empty house, he sighed a large breath of relief. It was over. He no longer had to give his will over to her to mold into what she wanted of their life together. He would no longer be living in a D.H. Lawrence novel. And just as he had suspected, she had found someone new; new clay that she could shape into the kind of man she needed. When she married Seth, he was glad that his son, who chose to live with his mother, would have a man in the house for safety and a somewhat conventional life.

He had to admit, for he had thought about it in obsessive detail over the last seventeen years that overall, she had been skilled at making good decisions; rational ones; whereas, he was often more emotional. They had balanced each other in that regard. He missed being married but couldn’t stomach seeing Rebecca when he had to at an event that involved their son, his estranged son, who had always been aligned with his mother, a mommy’s boy that Rebecca coddled. They were a team, a duet, whispering in a corner of the kitchen about things that didn’t include him and that he couldn’t even imagine. Were Gavin’s soccer clothes clean, was she going to pick him up from practice? What else could they possible need to discuss in whispers in their private world without him?

Gavin was still living with Rebecca even though he was engaged, so he could save money for a house. He was responsible and successful like his mother, unlike him. Both had a predilection for numbers and details; he was more of a person enmeshed in language and ideas. Gavin inherited more of his personality and way of thinking from Rebecca or had merely evolved by mimicking her. He was determined to be an actuary and had passed his first exam while working full-time for an insurance company; a job that Noah couldn’t imagine as he was not cut out for cubicle life. When he worked in an insurance company himself when he was nineteen, his day revolved around the clock, watching it barely move throughout the long eight-and-a-half-hour day; dreaded Monday to glorious Friday.

Regardless of why, his son was different from him, and they had a hard time carrying on a conversation once Gavin became a teenager. He couldn’t remember the last time he talked to his son. He had seen him at his college graduation but didn’t have the chance to speak with him one-on-one with all their relatives there and Gavin’s fiancée’s family. It was his son’s day, after all, but it pained him that he felt excluded from his son’s life. Gavin never responded to Noah’s text weeks ago, but that was par for the course.

The clock on the mantle was approaching midnight, and the fire was calming down. He felt too exhausted to carry more wood in from the garage and knew that Wallace was ready to go outside one more time. He put on his boots, and Wallace stood up and stretched, knowing that they would be heading out into the fresh air of night.

The bitter cold air hit him in his face; the Arctic wind of the last few days was still blowing—cutting right through his coat, legs, and hands. He hadn’t put gloves on, so put his hands in his coat pockets. “Come on, Wally, be a good boy!” the phrase that signaled it was time for the dog to do his business on the pile of snow amassed on the side of the driveway. “Let’s make some yellow snow, boy!” Wallace complied as Noah looked up at the crisp stars in the clear, black sky—wanting to drink of their steady, faraway light.

It was going to be a long winter; three more months of New England snow, sleet, and ice. He would try not to cross off the days on the calendar this new year; he would try to live each one without merely trying to get through the day. Teaching had become draining, and he was happy to have three more weeks off before the spring semester began. He would have to revise his syllabi but would wait until a few days before classes started. He would write until then. Yes, he would write and try to be more social.

The now-January air was bitter cold but refreshing. His thoughts seemed untangled but that would change, he knew, when his head hit the pillow and Wallace nestled up to him with his head on his chest. He would listen to music and forget about his lonely New Year’s Eve. It would be a different year, he vowed, unlike any other—a new blank slate on which to carve new figures, designs, lines, circles, and dots to be connected like the stars that were steady up in the winter night sky, hoarding their own light.

He wasn’t sure how much time he had left with his sickness and deteriorating health, so he was committed to living fully every day, every moment. He would not watch the clock. He would be Noah, a new Noah, who was connected to the Noah of his boyhood, a simple person who loved being in the world, who collected fallen autumn leaves and picked wildflowers for his mother. He missed her. Perhaps he would see her in the afterlife or perhaps he would return to the calcium dust of the stars.

“Come on, boy.” It’s time to sleep. He and his dog returned to the warmth of the house, to the warmth of down blankets and the silence of night. He needed sleep; his body and mind needed to rest. He knew he would wake too early at five o’clock in the dark and light the fire again on a new day of a new year. He would be grateful for the sleep. He would be grateful for everything.

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/24 [from] iterations of summer [september]

/24

Spiritual hunger has ebbed//

satiated, in dub[i]o[us] fact—

that desire to have things||

feed the null set ¥ stuff

new abysses with light, possibly color•

<< impossible

burnt sienna~~inside a company>>

an ongoing

conversation with

the universe.

 

It’s not like it was anymore~~ and thus,

never shall be ¥ >> merely another

super|imposition•.

 

varnished doors keep breeding

more doors, tunnels, and bridges

through nights of

crushed oleaginous velvet. My

forest owl continues

writing its poem; the once-homeless poet*

dog smiles. Wet peat-moss

ground has shifted our

common ground; bending

forever—the

roads with their

attendant anxieties. Imagination

knows what might

go wrong—or right, one

reminds the

self hopelessly lost

in shuffle–

 

The final days of sum*

mer eluded. There was no

music, just rain. The gar*

den ran wild toward

the sun.

 

Autumn began her

delicate footfall—stepping

in

with a slight chill;

condensation on

car windows. One

must clean the ga*

rage, make

room for kaleido*

scopic after*

maths of objects and

their objections

to memory.

 

This year, I swear

on my father’s grave–I shall

clean the gut[ters] aft[er]

the old red

maple gives up

her wither-crunched

tan [l]eaves–I will

answer when you

call [me].

 

Until then, you can

find me on the

rotting picnic bench

of my childhood

[adorned with soft,

emerald moss]—

 

singing atonal arias

to the discombobulated

Ghosts of the House—about

the cold, rusted p[or]ch s*wings

of the encroaching

long winter–

 

[ab]out longing

to be [a

better] human.

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/21 [from] iterations of summer [september]

/21

 

The holiday memo was email-bombed COB Friday to all

involved parties with some supervisors bcc-ed in, but none of

 

the workers fucking cared. Driving for too many days leaning into

the serpentine roads with cars following much too closely toward

 

a town that no longer existed, I texted you—asking to tape our worries //

splintered prayer boards to stones you should fasten to the hidden

 

river on the ancient map. . . but the cell towers were cluttered

with the aftermath

of another DOUBLE set {double bubble*gum*

style mass-produced} of

 

MASS {please note the irony} SHOOTINGS–

on the same fucking day—conducted with the skill of a

 

virtuoso European conductor HIGH on street-grade

CRACK. Yes, it’s true

 

I was flying high on polyphonous frequencies—

talking much too fast//frenetically—before the

 

inevitable underpass—collecting

torrential rains—a bi*product of

 

the catastrophic hurricane—for which the tourists weren’t smart

enough to evacuate. {When one pays for a desperately-

 

needed vacation on credit with 22% interest, the best

decisions aren’t always made.}

 

I was looking for the extra toothbrush for the

adolescent whose father might

 

IMPLODE again—because of the newly // non*binary

{gender*fluid} sexuality // self-

 

asserted {finally}; nomenclature

{warrior name}—to clean

 

out//urge//expunge aforementioned

COBWEBS—in our collective un-

 

conscious—when you caught me off

guard—with your

 

frantic//––// EVERYTHING*IS*

CRISIS* phone call.

 

Please forgive my NECES*SIT*AT*ED //

self-imposed quietude—

 

in the morning-garden light–

of this six o’clock hour.

 

There are some things I need to

 

get off my chest—in P=R=I=V=

A=T=E—while I scavenger-hunt

 

the missing clues—to share with

you later on your facebook timeline.

 

Adjust your privacy settings accor*ding*ly—

 

{{I’ll miss some of you.}}

 

to catch another

tidal wave*tsunami at the nu-

 

clear plant—trying to move

 

the frayed toothbrush through

the diaphanous cob*webs—

 

one leg in night-dream; O=N=E

foot

lost

i{n}

w{in}ter.

 

When we me*et, you

m{us}t

tell

me

Everything.

 

At the makeshi{f}t alt{ar},

the WEEP*IN*G

 

will{ows}

{w}ill es{sent}*i*ally sur-

 

render. . . .

 

three t{hous}an/d birds

{sh!}all

a*light.

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/23 [from] iterations of summer [september]

/23

 

The words were very hungry and, in turn, made the people who heard them hungry.

 

Some of the captivated audience would go for celebratory pizza and beer and talk utter bullshit;

 

others flew home in metal-boxes to their estranged spouses, disappointed children, mammoth TVs—

 

cyber blue light in the retinas too many hours of quotidian escape burned even in their half-dreams

 

 

[or, maybe] the pages of the Book would locate and drown them;

 

sentences dangling them over the edge-plateau Abyss. There were

 

metaphysical moments a few in the crowd wanted to talk about,

 

but the words ran right off the page—like a watercolor

 

on an incline leaving spider threads / maps. The dilapidated, lopsided mask-

 

constructions might banish the evil spirits back to their proverbial, macabre forests—

 

but We can no longer see the trees; stuck in being [pronouns].

 

 

A sign on the door signals the baby is, at last, sleeping.

 

The writing on the wall promised the war in someone else’s country would still be going on;

 

too many splintering teams, foreign interest / disinterest, complications of vested interests,

 

threats of terrorism / social media [de-]propaganda, [no breathtaking leadership]—

 

 

but what, in essence, should a concerned citizen do—make a phone call, send an email,

 

text the netherworld; tell them to come fetch some of the complicit / colluded crew?

 

 

Time should be carefully allotted before it accrues, fools you.

 

 

It’s silly to remove the lower pillars of the shifting construction,

 

but the heavy-metal soundtrack, replete with a chorus of electric guitars and five mammoth drum sets

 

made it all seem somewhat, temporarily bearable—

 

before the crumble-shuffle cumulative shock effects; how dizzying!

 

 

You really should un-knot the plush, golden rope for the disaffected cat; tired, she lounges

 

in the tall September grass; late lavender heather, Russian sage, burnt clover—

 

all the neighbors of the disenfranchised global neighborhood [almost everyone]–

 

hanging on by a spider’s thread. Saturday’s fifth gear will dissipate

 

exponentially by Monday, sigh.

 

 

It’s all esoteric philosophy [subjective sentences built out of private nomenclature] anyway, isn’t it?]

 

 

The cicadas will be even earlier tonight than the earlier earlier duskfall sky paintings, muted by cloud layers,

 

giving the illusion that all the pain is softer;  light traveling farther away to be closer to

 

someone / something else.

 

 

Objects, adjectives, prepositions, and complicated ideas [the brain’s strange pictures edited by someone who went temporarily psychotic with the scissors and tape]

 

will be defined by what they are not.

 

July is not January; money is not water.

 

Not everything can be counted; not everything can be lost.

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from vi. entropy–iPhone mobius strip [hybrid]

 

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THE MUSIC OF LOSS

I lost the night, the skeleton key to my grandmother’s china cabinet, my shadow at the airfield when the military planes went by, the turquoise and chartreuse scarf my mother brought me back from Ireland last May, my resolve.

I lost the notebook with all the passwords, the memo from my boss about tomorrow’s emergency meeting, the apricot dinner-plate dahlia tubers I dug up two months ago, my right to stay silent.

I lost my way out of the forest at twilight, my focus on the last star before cloud blankets settled in, the ability to stay composed during the police interrogation, my favorite coffee mug, my posture.

I lost the burnt sienna leather gloves you bought me, my father’s father’s chest of war medals, the note I left on the refrigerator to remind me of ___________ , my trust in the government, my affection for the media.

I lost my checkbook, my debit card, my childhood bank book, my morals from twenty years ago in the shuffle of the twenty-first century.

I lost my sleeping bag, the one with the broken zipper, anyway. The directions to the secret cove at the shore, the obsidian rock, the stone plateau covered in barnacles where the tiniest creatures pool in the ankle-high water warmed by the sun. Where the spearfisherman cherry-picking the taug taugs that taste like the lobster and crab they eat scraped up his back on the rocks during high tide, and disappeared.

I lost the crystal earring from Czechoslovakia, the large amber pendant with insects stuck inside forever brought to me by my now-deceased ciocia [aunt] from the open market in Krakow. I lost my will to open the door to the universe and say hello to whomever lurks awkwardly inside.

I lost the onyx eyeglasses I need for driving at night, my favorite prescription cheetah reading glasses, the pills that help me sleep but often cause me to hover above toward my bedroom ceiling and witness myself as dream.

The GPS that was left in the car before the crash, the remote on which the seven and nine do not click in. I lost the address to the place that was supposed to help me. I lost my patience for anyone not an innocent child, elderly person, or animal.

I lost my ability to do math; calculate right angles I could no longer see, approximate to the nearest meaningful decimal, the right attitude for talking a jumper down from the platitudes/highest skyscrapers in New York City. I lost my desire for what I used to want so vehemently in my much-younger years.

I lost my father’s sense of ambition; he wanted for me to make six figures, be a success with a large 401k to which he added IRAs when he calculated my paltry tax return annually with the patience of a saint. I lost the ability to work in a cubicle of clocks ticking and unhappy women talking to their estranged spouses during lunch while eating processed-meat sandwiches or takeout from Taco Bell, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Dunkin Donuts, Kentucky Fried Chicken, or Subway.

I lost the spare key to the shed where I buried my doll heads and eyelashes I cut, thinking they would then grow longer because of something I overheard my mother saying to her best friend; the only key to my elderly mother’s safety deposit box [formerly jointly owned by both my parents before my beloved father’s earthly demise] when I retrieved my adoption papers and birth name for the first time.

I lost the antique, yellow, “puffy” lamp bequeathed to me by my favorite voyek [uncle], the white double-blossom rose of Sharon, the female apple tree without its mate [didn’t return after last year’s interminable winter], seven types of designer coneflowers, including Apricot Sunrise, Double-decker Green, Double-decker Pink, Mixed berry–because I was too dangerously depressed last spring to weed.

I lost my convictions, my definitions of happiness, love.

It wasn’t all due to carelessness; there was some fatigue. A spiritual fatigue that settled in –that winter the three ghosts of the House came and watched everything.

I must confess the onerous guilt of multitasking / juggling a million fractured things while on metaphorical crack / caffeine to counter the aforementioned spiritual plus, autoimmune / lupus fatigue.

The ghosts came to me again in the early morning this stunning September morning and spoke slowly, barely audibly, in my left ear [clogged more than the right from goldenrod allergies] that everything, yes, everything was going to be okay;

that forgiveness was not their jurisdiction but my own.

The sole female ghost of the House, Rita Lemery, was the one who did the whispering while the ghosts of her husband, Roger, and my late father lurked on either side of her.

Rita’s ghost cooed with a voice of pure golden honey that my poem about losing things was beautiful, and that she and the other ghosts [even ones who did not frequent my cellar], including that ethereal / eternal version of my father, were proud of me.

 

 

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MOURNING

written after Henry Jopek [my father] passed away on March 31, 2015

Shed the black cloths of mourning for white lilies, gladiolas, tulips, hyacinth.

A private grieving finally alone in the House. Thank God. Birds sleeping in the rain

in barren trees of tiniest buds will eventually sprout magnolia and pear blossoms,

ladders of cathedral bells. No more PANIC of not being able to BREATHE properly.

The lungs washed clean by rain. The cloths of being unimaginable

it has been said so much // so little–just rain awash and human weeping

for the lost waiting rooms–for the man who shrank

into a fracture of star.

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/19 [from] iterations of summer [august]

If I am mute this opening sequence of September {a handful of days, perhaps, to recompose myself after overloaded//depletion of too*many*people//hurry—

winding//uphill pot-holed roads—in my claustrophobic//mercurial {silver} metal-box-chariot {epithet: Frightened Minnow Lost at High Tide}—

< < <

I may be sleepwalking through derailed/ugly conversations—

foraging in the obsessive-compulsive ghosts’ cobwebs—

for an ELIXIR to stand upright {though not even}—

scissoring out the names of the dead.

You must not take any of this personally

{but what choice do you have really?}—

the cumulative effect of the proliferating silk//cacophonous bluelit/backlit screens—

was simply—

enervating.

<  <  <

The holiday memo was email*bombed–on time COB Friday—to all involved parties {some Bcc-ed}—

but no one {including me}—really fucking cared.

<  <  <

I had been driving for too many days {with cars following much*too*closely} toward a town that no longer existed.

I texted you—asking to tape our worries//splintered prayer boards to stones—

you should carry to the Farmington River—expediently—

but the cell towers were cluttered with the aftermath of another DOUBLE set

{double bubble*gum*style mass-produced} of

MASS {please note the irony} SHOOTINGS–

on the same fucking day.

{yes, September finds me quite {uncharacteristically} angry}}—

conducted with the skill of a virtuoso European conductor HIGH on street-grade CRACK.

<  <  <

Yes, it’s true I was flying high on different frequencies—talking much too fast//frenetically–

before the inevitable underpass—collecting torrential rains—a bi*product of the catastrophic hurricane—

for which the tourists weren’t smart enough to evacuate. {when one pays for a desperately-needed vacation on credit with 22% interest, the best decisions aren’t always made.}

<  <  <

I was looking for the extra toothbrush for the adolescent whose father might

IMPLODE  again—because of the newly//binary {gender*fluid} sexuality//

self-asserted {finally} nomenclature {warrior name}—

to clean out//urge//expunge aforementioned COBWEBS–

in our collective unconscious—

when you caught me off guard–

with your frantic//–

–// EVERYTHING*IS*CRISIS phone call.

<  < <

Please forgive my NECESSITATED //

self-imposed quietude—

–in the morning-garden light–

of this six o’clock hour.

<  <  <

There are some things I need to get off my chest—

in P=R=I=V=A=T=E—while I scavenger-hunt

the missing clues—

to share with you later on your facebook timeline.

Adjust your privacy settings accordingly.

{{I’ll miss some of you.}}

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/2 [from] iterations of summer [june]

Count the steps to the mailbox at night, the number of seconds in emotional freefall, the minutes left in the hour, the hours until the work finish line. There is always more time [on some level] somewhere.

When flipping the conversation on its Kafka-esque back—make eye contact to gauge the subject’s attitude. So many are distracted by the internal goings-on; a few seconds is enough to gauge the subject’s attitude.

Enumerate the drops of the waterfall to have that Zen experience amidst the mass-produced chaos of the hour. Cars zigzagging on the freeway; following too closely. Road rage will get you nowhere; zoom in on your shadowed hand.

The dreamer becomes a statue lost underwater, tangled in seaweed moss. The fishhook may dislodge more dirt than one can handle. Pull up the nets and count the bounty; contemplate setting the captive free.

Saturday’s fifth gear will dissipate exponentially by Monday, sigh.

The other subjects were pleasant overall.

If reading between the lines, jettison all lines. There are no absolute rules—just the skeletons of fists grasping one’s own collar.

When sleep becomes a weighted blanket, wrap the moon and stars around the body’s cocoon; brace for the rain in the open windows that let in tomorrow’s frenetic bird trills.

There was heated discussion of not talking about the wars going on; documents signed to hide other documents. Talk of fake news, media non-facts, egregious behaviors, illogical events. . .

Don’t be fooled by the proliferating screens.

The subject’s suitcase hides a vacation to the island of reprieve. It will be very quiet there; pack music to unfold pages/uncurling mimosa blooms.

Don’t panic; others have felt this way.

 

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i•Phone *möbius strip* {hybrID.(b*oo*k)}: in*tro

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